Unleash Your Creative Potential: Embrace Divergent Thinking Through Movement

critical thinking critical thinking mastery Mar 27, 2024
The (Critical) Thinker

Divergent thinking represents the pinnacle of creative thought, enabling individuals to approach problems and situations with a novel, outside-the-box perspective. It's about breaking free from conventional thinking patterns and exploring a myriad of possibilities.

Rethinking the Image of Thought

What image comes to mind if you imagine somebody thinking very hard? You might conjure up an image not unlike Auguste Rodin's The Thinker— the classic statue of the man sitting with his chin resting upon his fist, contemplating whatever he's contemplating with considerable seriousness, pensiveness, and stillness. But, how “accurate” is that “thought?”

A Historical Perspective: Movement and Thought

Historically, human survival hinged on physical activity intertwined with cognitive processes. From foraging for food to constructing shelters, our ancestors' problems demanded physical solutions, inherently linking movement with thinking. This symbiosis between physical activity and cognitive function reveals a fundamental aspect of our nature, often overlooked in the modern context of sedentary intellectual work.

Not only that, but for most of human history, there was simply nothing very complex to think about. The kind of exceptionally complex problems that we might just sit around and think about simply didn't exist. There was absolutely no opportunity, much less the need, to sit around and think about things like what Bitcoin's effect on the European economy could pose for Russia's unjust war against Ukraine. There simply was little need to think about things that only operated in the state of the mind and didn't involve some kind of physical activity.

Instead, problems required physical solutions. If you were hungry, you would have to travel some distance to forage for food and, worse, very often your food would try to run away from you, and that would require a far greater extent of physical activity simply so that you could eat. If you wanted clothing, you'd have to go out and physically acquire the resources for that clothing, and then you'd have to physically assemble the clothing.

If you wanted shelter, you had to build it. In other words, for virtually all of human history, thinking was almost always certainly not exclusively, but almost always directly linked to physical movement. You had to move to think.

The Surprising Link Between Thought and Action

Have you ever wondered why we often picture deep thought as sitting quietly, hardly moving at all? It's quite strange when you think about it, especially considering our ancestors were always on the move, solving problems while in motion. Despite our history, the modern image of 'serious thinking' involves a lot of sitting still. We have very nice offices with desks that are intended to keep us still. Yet, our brains have evolved to link thinking closely with physical activity. Recognizing this connection can
revolutionize the way we approach creative problem-solving and innovative thinking.

Unlocking Divergent Thinking Through Movement

So, if you want to be a more divergent thinker, or if you are in a circumstance where more divergent thinking is required in the short term, where, in essence, somebody needs to think outside of the box, or where you're feeling stuck and you want to snap out of your mental rut, then you really want to start to think about integrating a little bit of movement into your thinking process.

But not just any movement. Researchers make an interesting distinction between something flexible thinking, which is the ability to come up with multiple different categories of ideas, and persistent thinking, which is the ability to develop many ideas while remaining within a single category. So, if I gave you a paper clip and asked you to list all the categories in which one could use it, that would challenge your mental flexibility. You might determine that it could be used as a toy, as a weapon, and for medical purposes.

Persistence, on the other hand, applies to how many ways you could think up to use the paper clip in just one category. So, in terms of using it medically, you might devise that it could be used to remove a splinter, bind two fingers together if one is broken, or even, potentially, to suture a wound. (Ouch!)

The Science of Movement and Creativity

Returning to the earlier point about thinking and physical activity, controlled experiments have affirmed that when they test the divergent thinking of people who have remained sedentary vs. those who have engaged in movement, the people who’ve engaged in movement show greater divergence in their thinking. Even just 15 or 20 minutes of movement produces greater divergence, specifically with respect to mental flexibility.

The Best Types of Movement for Creative Sparks

More interestingly, researchers have found that the type of movement actually matters a great deal. While there's certainly some variation in the research on this, more creative types of movement, as well as the intensity of movement, are related to more creative thinking. Any physical activity will help stimulate divergent thinking more than sitting around. But yoga, because it is a series of slow, prescribed movements, will not do quite as much to stimulate your divergent thinking as running on a treadmill. But running on a treadmill, though more active than yoga, is still a series of highly repetitive
movements. Consequently, running on a treadmill probably will not stimulate your divergent thinking as much as a dance class, which is highly physical and involves a far greater range of physical expression.

But taking a dance class probably will not do as much to spark your divergent thinking as simply putting on some of your favorite music and dancing freestyle. Why? Because relatively intense movement combined with freedom of expression is shown to do the most to spark your divergent thinking.

And guess what? Whether or not you're in the mood to do it has almost no impact on whether or not it works. And that's because, as I noted before, there's simply an intrinsic connection between our thinking processes and movement. 

So, once again, this particular relationship between physical activity and divergence that I'm talking about today refers much more to mental flexibility than it does to mental persistence. But nevertheless, if you want to get your brain outside that box, if you really want to think differently, if you want to be known as that divergent thinker in your group, then get out there and move.

Takeaway: Movement is Your Gateway to Creative Thinking

To sum up, embracing physical activity, especially varied and expressive movements, can significantly enhance your mental flexibility and creative thinking. If you aspire to be a divergent thinker and stand out with your innovative ideas, it's time to get moving. Shake off the stillness and let your body lead your mind to unexplored territories of thought.

Ready to Transform Your Thinking?

Dive into a world where movement and creativity collide. Join us at the Critical Thinking Institute and embark on a journey to unleash your potential for divergent thinking.

Whether you're seeking to break free from creative blocks, looking to enhance your problem-solving skills, or simply want to think outside the box, our innovative programs are designed to integrate mind and movement in ways you've never experienced before.

Don't wait to unlock your creative brilliance. Sign up today and start moving towards a more innovative, flexible, and dynamic way of thinking. Your journey to becoming a divergent thinker begins with a single step. Will you take it?

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